Duterte sparks new diplomatic row with 'gay' remark

US summons Philippine envoy over insulting Tagalog term used for American ambassador

MANILA • Firebrand Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sparked a fresh diplomatic row with his colourful language, calling the US ambassador "gay" in comments that prompted Washington to summon Manila's envoy.

In the latest of a series of tirades, Mr Duterte had used a local Tagalog homophobic slur to express his displeasure with US Ambassador Philip Goldberg in televised comments made last Friday.

"As you know, I'm fighting with (US Secretary of State John Kerry's) ambassador. His gay ambassador, the son of a w****. He pissed me off," Mr Duterte said.

The 71-year-old former mayor surged to power in a landslide election victory in May following an incendiary campaign in which he gleefully used foul language to insult authority figures, from his local political rivals to the Pope.

Responding to the furore yesterday, the President asked that the comments about Mr Goldberg be ignored. Mr Duterte first came into conflict with Mr Goldberg on the campaign trail, after he said he wanted to rape a "beautiful" Australian missionary who had been sexually assaulted and murdered in a 1989 prison riot in Davao, the city he ran for two decades.

STRONG WORDS

As you know, I'm fighting with (US Secretary of State John Kerry's) ambassador. His gay ambassador, the son of a w****. He pissed me off.

PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE, expressing his displeasure with US Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

Mr Goldberg and the Australian ambassador both strongly criticised these comments.

"He meddled during the elections, giving statements here and there. He was not supposed to do that," Mr Duterte said last Friday.

The US State Department said the Philippines' charge d'affaires, Mr Patrick Chuasoto, was summoned on Monday to discuss Mr Duterte's comments.

"We had that conversation," said department spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau. "I think what we were seeking is perhaps a better understanding of why that statement was made," she added.

Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose confirmed the meeting but said Mr Chuasoto had been "invited to the State Department to discuss the entire breadth of Philippine-US relations".

"Philippine-US relations remain strong," he told AFP yesterday.

Mr Duterte yesterday said his comments about Mr Goldberg should be ignored, as he reaffirmed a "strong alliance with America".

"Just ignore my tirade against their ambassador," he said in a speech at a military camp in Zamboanga city.

But he insisted that Mr Goldberg should not have criticised him as he was running for president, saying: "They were true anyway. (It was) simply the truth at the time of the election. Why would he give a statement when the election is going on?"

He said Mr Goldberg "should not have meddled. That is our business. It was the campaign season".

Mr Duterte added: "I will reiterate our strong alliance with America. There is only one source (for military equipment)... the United States, with whom we have an alliance militarily."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte sparks new diplomatic row with 'gay' remark'. Print Edition | Subscribe